Thursday, 8 November 2012

Miss Malaprop


‘Mummy,’ announces the 10-year-old, ‘is too tired to exclaim her consequences!’

As her ambition outstrips her vocabulary, her conversation becomes rivetingly surreal. She admonishes the Vicar for nitpicking: ‘Don’t be so nutritious [pedantic]!’ She sympathises with a friend who has been insulted. ‘I’d feel very bedraggled [dismayed] if someone said that to me!’ and exclaims in disgust when her brother exhibits a half-chewed Malteser: ‘That’s a bad privilege [habit]!’

I love this fearless manipulation of language. My children, armed with a handful of primary-school nouns, can make themselves understood more confidently in France than I can with my university degree, because they are oblivious to grammatical embarrassments and inventive of expressive alternatives.

Only children could converse with the profoundly deaf teenager in our first parish, because they were unfettered by self-consciousness. They talked and gestured normally, whilst we adults smiled uneasily and scarpered. Ignorance of official sign language prevented us, we assumed, from communicating.

In her struggle to articulate, my daughter invents words that don’t exist but ought to. She prefers the Vicar to take her to school because he drives the Skoda, while I march her a mile through mud. ‘What I like about you,’ she compliments him, ‘is that you’re not very walkative.’

Her good opinion is short-lived. The Vicar nags her about her slack tie and her bling school bag and he won’t let her substitute her school shoes for plimsolls. She eyes him severely, pondering the ultimate put-down. ‘You are,’ she decides triumphantly ‘getting to the drive with me, Dad!’

Are your children linguistic experimenters? Share your favourite malapropisms here:

25 comments:

  1. Love it. The Imps' creativity, especially the little one, amuses and disappears into the ether alas and I do not have your gifts to recapture them. My excuse is that a large part of the little one's genius is in large part, tone of voice.

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    1. Trying to think of anyone I used to know who had two offspring called Imp.

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    2. Ha ha, have found a list of sayings from the smaller Imp. Imagine them delivered rather self importantly, to get the right tone of voice.

      Balancing is when you don't fall off!

      They speak vegetarian here! [In a wholefood café]

      I know it's a girl cat because of its eyelashes!

      I can't see Ted, but I can smell him.

      I'm turning into a polar bear: then I'll be able to keep the whole house cold! [On seeing a mark on his leg on a hot day]

      To make a rocket go on fire at the bottom, you use string and put it in the holes, normally.

      [Discussing possible callers at a police station] Squawk! I'm a parrot and I've had all my feathers stolen!

      That way (points to his left) is tomorrow. And that other way (points right) is yesterday.

      You can tell when a lady is a baddy because she wears sparkly dresses.

      Is science a sort of playing?

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    3. Thank goodness you preserved them. I love the idea of vegetarian grammar!

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  2. Just to add WINKY-SOCKET into the mix. A noun invented by my daughter for the hole in the front of mens pants and blogged about long ago here http://tattooedmummy.blogspot.co.uk/2009/11/things-kids-say-more.html

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    1. Winky Socket ought to be adopted by advertisers and manufacturers. It will certanly be adopted in the vicarage.

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  3. When DD was just 2 she got hysterical because i wouldn't give her a sharpener. "SHARPENER!" she screamed as she pushed the highchair around (that should have given me a clue but it didn't). I was practically in tears myself until I realised that she was actually saying "Supper now."

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    1. Food and shapr objects are easily confused. Coop refused to serve my pair recently when they asked for raisins. Turned out the assistant thought they were after razors.

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  4. My kids don't have such a sophisticated grasp of vocabulary yet. However, my I felt my daughter's recent description of her underwear was worthy of a blog post: http://www.allotmentmum.co.uk/pants/

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  5. Sadly I can't think of any examples but I will say that the teenage boy of mine continually tries to baffle us with his use of the English language.

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    1. I'm assuming they revery to grunts during teen years.

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  6. Being the tender age of two, my daughter is yet to exhibit some of these more inventive words. One of my favourites from her recently, though, was (said in the very early morning, as the darkness was yet to lift) "Mummy, please turn the night off". She meant, "turn the light on". I love the way she'd literally translated both sentences to mean the same thing!

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    1. You could conjure a whole bedtime story round that. What a beautiful phrase.

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  7. Love it. Bibs says that things are not 'fair' when she means not done 'right'. She also talks of my recent stay in 'hosdipal'... not exactly a malapropism but very cute.

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    1. You need to write the baby words down. Most evaporate beyond all recall.

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  8. An invented word that sticks in my mind from my own childhood was my brother's word 'hockerclocker' for 'helicopter' - I still use it on occasion!

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    1. That's a very good word. I find I sometimes strew my own or my children's baby words in adult conversation which, among strangers, can be startling.

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  9. Wonderfully observed - Little A has so many funny expressions - and typically as it's morning I can't recall any! Apart from ambliance instead of ambulance!

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    1. Oh yes, my brother and I used to call it that. And still sometimes do!

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  10. My favourite (so far) from the toddler years is "hella-brella" for umbrella. Was a sad day when that one passed into history.

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    1. No need for it to. I resolutely preserve the best baby expressions.

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  11. One of mine used to ask if I could put their hoodup on. From me asking if they needed their hood up, they must have thought the item was called a hoodup. I seem to remember that one of them (on the same principle) thought there was an item of clothing called a cardiganon.

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  12. One of them invented the word "elsehow", which is very useful, actually. (If "elsewhere" exists, why not "elsehow"?)

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    ReplyDelete